I want to celebrate what we have achieved together this year – disabled people, whānau, government and allies. We have forged new ways of working together and I am proud of the way we have all contributed to make sure that disability rights are being realised in Aotearoa.
I have spoken often about the importance of having leadership about disability issues coming from disabled people themselves. I am so pleased that in 2013 we have been able to put these words into practice. Through the Enabling Good Lives demonstration, and by working with Disabled People’s Organisations to develop the Disability Action Plan, we are engaging in a new way of working with disabled people at the helm.
The Enabling Good Lives demonstration in Christchurch is an example of Government listening to disabled people and making changes to assist them achieve greater choice and control over the supports they receive and the lives they lead.
For many disabled people the ability to participate and contribute in their communities is limited by whether the built environment, or information, or communications are accessible. The Minister for Building and Construction and I recently announced a review into building access and from this we expect to see a greater emphasis on making access a right not something we add on, or fail to add on, later.
The Government is determined to take action to make New Zealand more accessible. This year we have been working towards strengthening New Zealand Sign Language – our third official language. We have set up an experts’ advisory group to provide advice about how to promote and maintain New Zealand Sign Language including an oversight body and a work programme.
I do have concerns about how well we are listening to our Māori and Pasifika disabled peoples – we have a long way to go in recognising and responding to the issues they face. I want us to do more to support these communities.
This year, a summary of my annual progress report is also being presented in Easy Read and you will also be able to access it in New Zealand Sign Language. I hope increasing everyone’s access to information will be something we all take up the challenge to get right in 2014.
Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Disability Issues
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